The Board of Trustees of the American Association of Pathologists’ Assistants (AAPA), of which I am an ex-officio Adjunct member, has recently read several books on management to provide a background of best practices relative to professional association operation, growth, and development in today’s environment. Many of these items are relevant to the operations and management of NAACLS. Finding these best practices employed serves as an indication of excellence in NAACLS’ vision and operation.
In The High Performance Board, Principles of Nonprofit Organization Governance, authors Dennis Pointer and James Orlikoff indicate “the most basic principle of governance is that the board appreciates the importance of governance and takes its work seriously. It devotes the necessary time and effort to governing, and it governs on the basis of agreed-to and explicit principles.” Within NAACLS, this basic principle is embraced and upheld not only by the Board but also by each of the program review committees, Board committees, task forces and salaried staff. The volume of work produced and the honesty and integrity with which it is accomplished is astounding, surpassed only by the fact that the workforce is largely volunteer.
Other principles identified include:
- Meeting fiduciary obligations
- Identifying key stakeholders and representing, advancing and protecting their interests
- Formulating a precise and detailed vision for the organization, and goals by which the vision can be fulfilled
- Recognizing that service quality and client satisfaction are essential
This list goes on with 64 total principles and, in each case, NAACLS’ effort is superlative.
In 7 Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don’t, from the ASAE and the Center for Association Leadership, the list includes:
- A customer service culture
- Alignment of products and services with mission
- Organizational adaptability
- Alliance building
- Data-driven strategies
- Internal dialogue and engagement on priorities, goals, and methods
- CEO as broker of ideas
For each of the items, NAACLS is actively engaged and continually striving for improvement. Surveys of our accredited and approved programs consistently give high marks for the service they receive. Additional data collected for our QA and Site Visit Process Committees indicate problem areas as they develop and stimulate strategies to eliminate these problems. An on-line education system for volunteers is being developed and will provide a common understanding of definitions and expectations. This will minimize variations of interpretation and help to standardize the program review process. Recent directives from CHEA mandating the use of outcome measures in program evaluation was discussed at length and is being incorporated into the Standards. These changes will be re-evaluated over upcoming review cycles to determine their effectiveness. Alliances with involved professional societies are scrupulously maintained and joint ventures encouraged, such as an ASCP research project on medical errors which is an outgrowth of the NAACLS Research Design initiative. Clearly, NAACLS is involved and successful in each of the listed areas.
In Millennium Membership, two issues listed by author Mark Levin are:
- Invest in and utilize technology
- Brand the organization
Once again NAACLS is in the forefront, using or moving to digital computer technology for Self Study document submission, surveys, volunteer education, and management of the accreditation/approval process. Surely no one will miss the 8-12 inch thick binders formerly submitted for Self Studies. In addition to using digital technology, the Board has developed a process to fund future upgrades and expansion of digital capability, recognizing that this is an ongoing process. Regarding branding, NAACLS has had relative exclusivity for accreditation within the realm of clinical lab education. The continuous efforts to establish and maintain quality in processes and operations have resulted in significant name recognition and image respectability.
We all know that the accreditation and approval processes involve comparing an educational program against a set of standards developed by experts in that field. In much the same manner, comparing NAACLS operations against the best practices of similar organizations is akin to a self study. I find NAACLS to be in compliance with all standards of performance and grant it the maximum award. Let’s not rest on those laurels.
by Jerry A. Phipps